Saturday, 28 February 2009

A Trip with Epic Enabled - by Scott Rains

On the prowl...Akila sizes up Scott.

I live in a small world - but it just got larger!

By estimates there are only about 500 million of "us" in the world - maybe as few as 50 million if you want to be technical.

Who're "us?" People with disabilities. People who use wheelchairs.

So being part of such a small group it is only natural that a few of us would know each other. We work together to make the world bigger for each other.

Big is beautifull...

My safari with Alfie and Epic Enabled made my world larger. Of course seeing the Big Five all before lunch in the Kruger then starting on "Big Five, Season Two" in the afternoon expanded my idea of what makes for a good day. Yet there was something else going on.

It was a wheelchair-using English fellow living in Belgium who put me in touch with Epic. Although I was previously influenced by an American friend in Chicago who did a study on the accessibility of South African tourism products, I was nudged ahead by an Indian with family in Brazil who told me more stories about accessible safaris, and intrigued by the interest in my potential trip shown by travel professional colleagues - all of whom specialize in serving travelers with disabilities: a Canadian, an Australian, several Thais, a German, a Pakistani, and one temporary Nicaraguan.

Smile for the Camera...Winnifred shares a kodac moment with the King of the Jungle.

I think it was two other professional colleagues - each with heartstrings attached to someone special in South Africa - whose uniquely English and Chinese insights into South Africa convinced me to go. It didn't hurt that I had a personal invitation from a tour operator in KwaZulu-Natal (Jennae Bezuidenhout of Access 2 Africa Safaris) and knew that her husband is a quadriplegic like I am.

My story of apparent "over-researching" for the trip is not at all uncommon among travelers with disabilities. Studies show that we depend more on word-of-mouth recommendations when making the decision to travel than any other sector of the market.

And the research paid off.

I can heartily endorse Alfie, Sabine - the entire crew at Epic Enabled - because I traveled through the Kruger with Epic (and on the way encountered a most uncomfortable traveler's health condition that Alfie unhesitatingly helped me resolve.)

As close as it gets...Winnifred & Marieke up close and personal with Akila & Savannah.

Others have told the story of the amazing wildlife and hearty food served out in the pristine veldt. My memories center on someone who has built a unique business - driving the whole safari industry and South African national tourism industry to greater standards of excellence.

Thank you Epic. Thank you Alfie.

Come to think of it, maybe my world just got smaller.

Once I got home a journalist friend in Chennai wrote after seeing my photos, "Oh, I see you met Akila too!" Now I'm also part of the small confraternity of travelers with disabilities who have taken a long walk down a country road with a wild lion!